Lord Mayor dismisses smart city “conspiracy theorists”

Darwin’s Lord Mayor speaks on the new ‘smart city’ initiative. Photo: PPC

The Lord Mayor of Darwin has defended the launch of new surveillance capabilities in the region, after the nation’s smallest capital city just finished the fastest rollout of ‘smart city’ technologies in the country.

The $10 million “Switching on Darwin” project has rolled out more than 900 “smart” LED lights, 24 environmental sensors, parking sensors, free wi-fi and a network of 138 new CCTV cameras throughout the Darwin CBD.


It is part of a broader council strategy to make Darwin a so-called “smart city”, the first in Australia, and inspired by a Chinese model.

The Darwin City Council said data would be used to help the council, businesses and residents learn more about the city and make better decisions.

For example, the council said they would be able to track the ways pedestrians and cars moved through the city and what time and where people logged on to wi-fi.

He said the council would make this data publicly available for businesses and residents.

Members of the council, have travelled to China on multiple occasions in recent years, including a trip in May, where the Lord Mayor and council staff attended a Smart Cities forum organised by controversial Chinese technology company Huawei and the city of Shenzen.

Telstra enterprise NT general manager Brad Hatton said the project was a first in Australia:

“The smart Darwin project is the largest single rollout of smart city technology anywhere in the country, it’s also been the fastest rollout ever achieved anywhere in the country.”

In Darwin, concerns over crime and safety are well documented, especially in the wake of last week’s mass shooting, and the council said smart technologies would help to keep the city safe.

But University of Western Australia law and technology expert Associate Professor Julia Powles said some of these claims were untested:

“Do we know, for example, that a couple of hundred CCTV cameras materially changes security? There’s no evidence of that. And then thinking perhaps a bit more innovatively than other places, like China, that have gone down a certain route of technologies.

We’re creating not smart cities in many ways, but surveilled cities, cities where there’s constant monitoring, and evidence shows that that really fundamentally changes how people operate and exist in cities.”

Lord Mayor of Darwin Kon Vatskalis said the technologies would make Darwin a better place, and concerns over Chinese-linked privacy and data security had been overblown:

As for the conspiracy theorists, I’ll say once again, there’s no facial recognition, we don’t have Chinese equipment, our cameras can’t tell who you are and what you do.

If you worry about privacy, don’t get a licence, give away your credit cards, and get out of Facebook.”

Read more:


Darwin’s new ‘smart city’ infrastructure is part of a national move by the Australian government to implement a connected grid of city and regional locations over the next decade.

The Australian government has committed to a new “Smart Cities Plan”. The plan sets out the government’s vision for ‘productive and livable cities that encourage innovation and growth.

Key domestic initiatives include the Smart Cities Plan, City Deals, the Smart Cities and Suburbs Program and the National Cities Performance Framework.

A smart city uses the data from devices and IoT sensors, largely operated by AI systems, to ‘improve people’s experience of city services’, using smart management of resources to ‘alleviate problems’.

This infrastructure will be maintained by 5G technology, which is set to be introduced on a national scale by 2020 and has already seen test hotspot launches by telecommunications companies.

Common themes found in smart city designs include: CCTV cameras with facial recognition capabilities, LED ‘smart lights’ and sensors, pedestrian trackers, city movement monitoring systems, and ‘environmental analysis’ to understand air quality such as dust, pollution and temperature.

Recently, Perth City council announced the installation of facial recognition technology to be installed in cameras across East Perth, despite concerns from privacy experts and local residents.

The network of 30 cameras is set to go live in weeks, amid complaints there has been no proper local consultation since the plans were revealed.

Other key locations in the plan include Melbourne, Newcastle, Sunshine Coast, Adelaide and more.



Many experts have expressed concerns over the privacy and freedom intrusions new smart city technologies will propose, including references to the misuse of power currently seen in China.

In China, smart tech is tackling everything from resource management, environmental issues and traffic congestion, to welfare systems and the lack of social trust.

Connected, next-generation vending machines, smart lockers in high-rise/multi-tenant buildings, Wi-Fi trackers, surveillance cameras and QR-code transactions, characterise China’s ‘smart cities’.

We predicted in February that China’s ‘Social Credit System’ will soon reach Australia, and this Orwellian picture is growing each and every day with emerging technologies.

The national smart city initiative, combined with other concerning biometric identification systems and programs across the country — including a new national facial recognition database — certainly raises red flags about where this country is headed in the next decade.

For more information on similarities between China’s model and Australia, click the image below:

China’s ‘Social Credit System’ will soon reach Australia


Darwin’s Lord Mayor dismisses privacy fears of ‘smart city conspiracy theorists’ | ABC

‘My wife is not involved’: Darwin Lord Mayor denies conflict of interest over China agreement | ABC

Australia is developing ‘smart city infrastructure’ | TOTT News

Perth council facial recognition trial greeted with concern and scepticism | The Guardian

5G rollout set for 2020 in Australia | TOTT News

China’s ‘Social Credit System’ will soon reach Australia | TOTT News

Australia’s new national facial recognition database | TOTT News


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2 Comments on “Lord Mayor dismisses smart city “conspiracy theorists””

  1. Chris Atty
    June 26, 2019 at 15:13 #

    What a time to be alive. I love how loosely they throw around the label conspiracy theorists. Perhaps it’s not going to be as sinister as some people think, but more than likely it will be. Everything is gaining momentum for the end game


  1. 5G set to bring unparalleled surveillance | The Crazz Files - August 30, 2019

    […] The installation of ‘smart cell’ boxes is directly related to Australia’s current rollout of smart city infrastructure across the country, which has also caused many concerns. […]

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